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New Heights for Atlas Shrugged

March 3, 2009

The 1957 Ayn Rand novel, Atlas Shrugged, is reaching new heights–at least in terms of books sold.  According to this article from the Economist, sales of the book on Amazon.com tend to spike when the government works to play a larger role in the greater national ecomony.

The novel is a favorite of libertarians, college students, and for a time, me.  For some readers, it acts as a seer into the future of American politics and economics.

I have, like many students, read Atlas Shrugged (though I took a number of years and I may have skipped most of the 60-page monologue–you know the one I’m talking about–I did read it). No matter how I think about it, I just cannot see the appropriate parallel between Rand’s world and ours.

Sure, the government is moving in to change a part of the financial structure; but only because those in charge have bungled the system so badly that it must be fixed or more trouble lies ahead. There are no great, heroic, Capitalistic giants to save humanity from the greed of the Leftists in today’s society.  The greed, this time, rests with the Capitalists who were too shortsighted to see that a housing bubble that size can’t last, or that maybe–just maybe–not everyone needs to own a too-large home.

In our world there are no John Galts, Dagny Taggarts, or Hank Reardens; on the other hand, not every proponent of the bailout is like James Taggart or Wesly Mouch; and Alan Greenspan is certainly not Robert Stadler.  Fiction (particularly allegorical fiction) tends to inaccurately mimic our lived experiences and we walk a dangerous line when we attempt to force those on the national stage into a false good/evil dichotomy.

For a few years I was a fairly convinced almost-Objectivist but I have since reversed course. Despite my disagreement with Rand’s general philosophy on life, I would still recomment her work–particularly The Fountainhead.  If nothing else, just keep buying books.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2009 10:42 am

    This is one of those books on my “Embarassed I Haven’t Read” list. Maybe one day . . .

  2. March 4, 2009 11:03 am

    I really don’t think you need to feel shame in having not read this. It’s super long, the ideas can be found in her other and better books, and it’s super long.

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